I got to thinking about writing the other morning while writing my morning pages. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, introduced me to morning pages. She says “In order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it.” Morning pages are three pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing done each morning before you do anything else. I suppose I should do mine first thing. Instead, I wait until after breakfast. Then I pull up a chair, fire up my pipe, savor that first sip of fresh brewed coffee, pull out a fresh sheet of paper, uncap one of my favorite fountain pens and let my mind go.
The morning pages ritual is not about writing. Morning pages are an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. Morning pages are a mind dump and you never know what will come out. Hint: getting things out into the daylight is the whole point.
I wondered. If morning pages aren’t about writing maybe first drafts aren’t about writing either. The same holds true for clustering and writing vignettes. Although we might be using writing tools (in my case pen and paper) we aren’t writing at all, we’re freeing our minds and allowing our ideas to come out on the page, real or virtual, without pre-judging or organizing.
We lump every activity we do while creating a written piece into “writing” but it’s not all the same. We do different things at different stages and label all of what we do as “writing.” Thinking about this can take you in circles.
If all writing is re-writing (and ultimately it is) it means we are editing at some stages. But wait! If we sit down to write and censor our first drafts as we write then we’re editors when we ought to be writers. Kind of makes you dizzy thinking about it.
The great sports writer “Red” Smith once said: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Yes, and the more you edit in the early idea stages, the more you tighten the tourniquet until the blood flow of insight slows to a disappointing drip or stops altogether.
Balance. Balance and co-operation between our right brain design mind and our left brain inner critic are the keys to finding our voice. Only then will we be writing from within. We may lump all we do when we create into the term writing and that’s OK — so long as we keep things in the proper sequence.
All design, all truly creative acts are iterative and circular. We go round and round, spiraling closer and closer to the finished work. Writing is a journey of discovery, of finding and polishing the gems and discarding (or saving for another time) the ideas that don’t fit.
Going in circles reminds me of the merry-go-rounds in playgrounds all over. Fun places where kids spin themselves in circles making themselves dizzy. I remember getting that merry-go-round cranking then laying back to watch the sky go by. Relax on your writing merry-go-round. Be easy and have fun. Allow your self (your dragon) to come out and play.